Week 18 is huge for the Broncos (21-6, 13-2 WAC) who close the regular season and defense of their 2007 WAC championship with one game at Utah State (9-17, 5-9 WAC) Thursday night in Logan, Utah. At stake for the Broncos is at least a share of the Western Athletic Conference title with a victory over the Aggies who are currently tied with Hawai’i for sixth place. Boise State enters the week tied with Fresno State in league losses with two each. Boise State, who has 13 wins, needs to win Thursday to guarantee themselves a share of the title while Fresno State, with 12 victories, will need to win both of their games against New Mexico State in Fresno on Thursday and then at Nevada on Saturday. If the Broncos defeat Utah State and Fresno State stumbles in one of their games Boise State would win the title outright. If the Broncos lose Thursday and Fresno State won out, the Bulldogs would win the title and Boise State would finish second. Tip for the Boise State at Utah State encounter is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. (Mountain) in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum at Logan.
Boise State won the first meeting between the Aggies and Broncos in Boise on Jan. 17 by the score of 85-77. In game one, Tasha Harris and Jessica Thompson led three Broncos in double-figure points with 19 apiece, meanwhile, Utah State’s Jamelah Brown had a team-high 24 points to lead the Aggies. The Broncos ran out to a 16-point lead, 65-49, with seven and a half minutes to play then held off a late Aggie rally attempt to win their ninth straight game over Utah State.
Looking at the Boise State Broncos . . .
Boise State features the league’s top and the nation’s 22nd ranked scoring offense averaging 74.3 points per game. They are an up tempo team who is at it’s best pushing the ball up the floor in a wide open attack. During their current 13-game win streak they have been held below 70 points twice and have scored 80 or more six times. Their current win streak is tied for the 7th longest active streak in the NCAA.
Entering the week Boise State has gone 21-6 overall and 13-2 in Western Athletic Conference action. The Broncos are currently at first place in the league standings one-half game ahead of Fresno State who is 12-2. Boise State closed their home schedule undefeated at 13-0 and currently have an active 16-game win streak in Boise dating back to last year. That home record is ranked as the sixth longest active streak in the NCAA.
Boise State returned three starters and seven letterwinners from last year’s championship team. They also added eight new faces to the squad. After struggling initially going 3-3 early, the Broncos slowly found their way finishing the non-conference slate at 8-4. Included in Boise State’s non-conference results is a 2-1 mark versus the PAC-10 and a 4-0 record against teams that went to postseason tournaments last year. Their two wins over league rival Nevada, who played in the WNIT last year, this season gives the Broncos’ a perfect 6-0 record against 2007 postseason teams (3-0 vs. NCAA Tournament and 3-0 vs. WNIT).
Boise State started conference action with two disappointing conference defeats at Fresno State 73-63 and at New Mexico State 79-65. In both games the Broncos dug themselves a huge hole then battled back only to fade down the stretch. However, Boise State has not lost since going 13-0 and averaging 77 points per game with a victory margin of 13.2 ppg during the streak.
Boise State is the defending Western Athletic Conference champions after going 12-4 in league play during the 2006-07 campaign. They set a school record for overall wins after finishing 24-9 highlighted by the WAC’s regular season and tournament titles, and a NCAA Tournament first round appearance where they lost 76-67 to George Washington. This year’s Boise State team was picked to repeat their conference championship in 2008 by both the league’s coaches and media.
Who To Watch For The Broncos . . .
Boise State has become a solid team during league play with seven of the 10 active players having recorded at least one double-figure point game and four Broncos averaging over 10 points per game. Boise State has arguably the best backcourt combination in the WAC in juniors Tasha Harris and Jessica Thompson. The duo were both Preseason All-WAC honorees and have each reached the 1,000 career points milestone this season.
Harris starts at the point-guard position where she has scored double-figure points in 26-of-27 games while leading the Broncos in scoring 13 times this season and 30 times during her career. She enters the game as the WAC’s second leading scorer at 16.2 points per game (NCAA 91st) to go with 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists (WAC 2nd), and 2.1 steals (WAC 6th).
Thompson is the WAC’s Preseason Player of the Year. The junior starts at the shooting-guard position where she has led the team in scoring 10 times this year and 32 times throughout her career. She is ranked seventh in the WAC for scoring at 14.2 points per game. She has recorded double-digit points in 23-of-27 games during the 2007-08 campaign.
The Broncos play for the most part a three guard offense with senior Jackie Lee playing the wing (three-guard). She has turned it on during league action averaging of 10.1 points (WAC 18th) and 4.9 rebounds per game. She is approaching the 1,000 career point milestone needing 44 entering this game in order to join teammates Thompson and Harris in the 1,000 point club as the 15th member.
Meanwhile, junior forward Jenna Galassi has been a major factor in WAC competition as well averaging 10.5 points (WAC 15th) and 4.3 boards during conference play. Junior reserve guard Jamia Malone is one of the better 3-point shooters for the Broncos during league competition hitting 36.1 percent (22-61) of her attempts to rank eighth in the WAC. She is averaging 7.1 points per game in conference games.
Sophomore Ja'Lara Walker moved into a starting role at center and has exploded onto the scene for the Broncos. The Merced, Calif. native has recorded three double-doubles and reset her career highs for points and rebounds three times, currently 21 and 23 respectively. She set the school record for rebounds in a game with 23 and tied the mark for offensive boards with 11 against San Jose State on Feb. 28. In addition, she is shooting an impressive 65.2 percent (45-69) from the floor while averaging 11.2 points and 8.8 rebounds during her nine starts.
Offensively As A Team . . .
The Broncos feature the WAC’s top ranked scoring offense and the nation’s 22nd on the year averaging 74.3 points per game on 40.4 percent (WAC 4th) shooting from the floor, 33.1 percent (WAC 4th) from 3-point range, and a league best 70.3 percent from the foul line. In league games, the Broncos are averaging 75.3 points (WAC 1st) per game and have scored 80 plus points six times. On the season, they are ranked 23rd nationally for three-pointers per game at 6.9 per contest.
Defensively As A Team . . .
Defensively, Boise State allows 66.3 points per game to rank sixth in the league. Meanwhile, opponents have shot 38.9 percent (WAC 4th) from the court and 31.6 percent (WAC 4th) from long range. Boise State is a +1.4 (WAC 5th) in rebound margin, 40.9 to 39.5 rpg. The Broncos are forcing 20.1 turnovers per game (WAC t-2nd) while giving it away 16.5 times per game (WAC 2nd), they are second in the WAC for turnover margin at +3.6.
Lately For The Broncos . . .
Recently, Boise State has won all four games over the span of three weeks. Last week they ended their home schedule with victories over San Jose State 74-65 on Thursday and Hawai’i 66-55 on Saturday. Ja'Lara Walker, aka "The Beast," led the team both nights in points and rebounds including the second best single game performance in program history on 21 points and a school record 23 boards against SJSU. On the week, Walker averaged 17.5 points, 15.5 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks in 26.5 minutes per game. Prior to last week, the Broncos defeated Idaho in Boise 74-40 on Feb. 21 preceded by a 80-69 road win at Nevada on Feb.14.
Game 28 Preview: Regular season finale, Boise State at Utah State
Thursday, March 6 - Tip at 7:00 p.m. (Mountain)
Logan, Utah (Dee Glen Smith Spectrum)
The Series . . .
Thursday’s encounter will be the 16th meeting all-time in the series between Utah State and Boise State. The two teams met twice last season with Boise State winning both 80-70 in Logan and 80-38 in Boise. The Broncos won the first meeting of the year in Boise 85-77 on Jan.17. Boise State has never lost to Utah State since the Aggies joined the WAC with the 2005-06 season and have a current streak of nine straight victories over USU.
A Quick Look At Utah State . . .
The Aggies enter the week at 9-17 overall and 5-9 in conference. They are currently tied for sixth place in the WAC standings with Hawai’i. They enter Thursday’s contest winners of three of their last four games including a 62-47 road loss at Louisiana Tech (Feb. 28) in their only game last week. Prior to that, Utah State had three straight victories including major upsets over two of the top teams in the WAC in Nevada (Feb. 21) 56-48 and Fresno State (Feb. 24) 44-40 in Logan, Utah. Their streak began with a road win at San Jose State 61-60 on Feb. 14.
Utah State is in its fifth season under head coach Raegan Pebley who has gone 42-95 at the school. The Aggies are also in their fifth year since re-starting the program. They returned three starters and nine letterwinners from last year’s 11-18 team that went 7-9 in conference action to place sixth. This season’s squad was picked to finish seventh in the WAC race by both the league’s coaches and media.
Statistically For The Aggies . . .
As a Team: Offensively, Utah State averages 59 points per game to rank seventh in the conference. They have shot 37.6 percent (WAC 8th) from the floor, 29.9 percent (WAC 8th) from 3-point range, and 69.8 percent (WAC 3rd) from the free-throw line. Defensively, they have allowed opponents 63.9 points (WAC 2nd) per game, while shooting 43.2 percent (WAC 8th) from the court and 34.4 percent (WAC 7th) from the arc. They lead the league for fewest turnovers per game at 16.0.
Who to Watch: Senior Taylor Richards leads the Aggies in scoring at 10.2 points per game (WAC 14th) and a team third best 4.2 rebounds per game. No other Aggie averages double-figure points but Jenny Gross is second in scoring at 9.6 ppg to go with a team-high 5.4 rebounds per game, followed by Danyelle Snelgro at 9.5 ppg and Jamelah Brown at 8.8 ppg and 5.3 rpg.